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Travels in South America

Gravity Assisted Death Ride

BOLIVIA | Tuesday, 21 October 2008 | Views [2408] | Comments [3]

After leaving Lake Titicaca.  We went to La Paz intending only to stay long enough to arrange our bike ride down the Worlds Most Dangerous Road.  Why is it so dangerous?  At points the road is no more than 3m wide.  It is also a rough dirt track.  On one side of the road is the mountain, on the otherside is a drop, anything up to 600m.

So we booked the bike ride with Gravity a consistently reccommended company who had fancy super-dooper bikes and all the gear you need, plus very experienced guides and drivers.

We left La Paz at 7:30 in the morning and were driven in a mini bus upwards for an hour.  Along the way we found out that our guide had been the drunken fool passed out in the office the previous day.  Not at all worrying.  He then went on to tell us scarey stories about some of the people that had died whilst cycling.  With their company only two had died, both times it seemed it was just an accident.  What really scared me was that he told us about an English guy who died this year.  He was in his twenties and from London.  He died when a car that was over-taking him, got a burst tire and took him out over the cliff.  His girlfriend saw the whole thing.  How awful and there was nothing the guy could have done.

So, sufficiently scared and now beginning to wonder why I am paying someone 50 pounds to lend me a bike upon which I apparently have a good chance of dying, we reached the top, got out of the bus and froze.  It was snowy, and raining and foggy and absolutely bloody freezing.  Everybody had about 4 layers of clothing on, plus a scarf thingy, gloves, goggles and a cycle helmet.  But it was still so cold.  We were given our bikes and told to ride around on them, yes the suspension was highly impressive but they were really heavy and did I mention, IT WAS COLD?!  We said a prayer, drank some alcohol (a good idea?) and set off.

The first part of the journey is on the new road.  It is well-tarmaced and wide enough for two lorries.  It´s not officially the World´s Most Dangerous Road but was a chance for us to get used to the bikes.  The cycling starts at a height of about 4700m, we cycle down to about 1000m and travel about 50km.  Along the way the guide stops about 25 times to make sure everyone is ok and give everyone a rest.

So off we went, cylcing and freezing our butts off, we get to the first stopping point and as if to prove a point there had been an accident.  A mini bus had gone off the road.  We later found out that 6 people died.  (This brings the total of dead for the supposedly safer new road to 49 THIS YEAR!)  Even more scared than before and definitely more cold we set off again.

Eventually we got to the start of the World´s Most Dangerous Road.  IT was still foggy and raining and impossible to see.  After cycling for about 10 minutes though the cloud and fog finally broke and we could see where we were cycling.  Now, I was quite happy about this because I could take the goggles off and see where I was going and start to defrost, however, it wasn´t until this point that it was possible to fully appreciate how stupid we were being.  We were riding along a very bumpy, gravelly, narrow road and there was a drop about 2 feet to the left of me.  A drop that went so far down I couldn´t even see the bottom properly, mental.  Anyway, after a while you get used to the ride and start to speed up and enjoy it.  Everyone except a polish girl. 

This poor girl had been paralysed with fear because of our guide.  He had previously had two Polish girls with the same name.  One got down safely, the other went over the cliff, but luckily landed on a ledge.  She was very broken, but alive.  The Polish girl on our ride was so scared she crawled down the hill.  Everytime we got to a stop point we had to wait for her and more terrible stories of death would be used to fill in the time.  A French girl who was startled by a lorry, stepped backwards and stepped off the cliff.  She died.  An Israeli girl who was complaining about her bike the whole ride, halfway down she got to a stop point on a bend, her brakes failed, she went over, and died in front of her whole group.  Two guys who were messing around at a rest point and one got thrown off the cliff, he died.  Another Israeli girl who went over and died, her tour company claimed she was doing wheelies.  Two more Israelis who died in a car accident.  The list just went on and on.  (Not a good road for the Israelis it seems.)

We did eventually all get to the bottom in one piece, and most of us enjoyed it.  The views were amazing and everyone was happy at still being alive and not a lump of mush at the bottom of the mountain.

It was a really good, exciting, fun and scarey day.  However, the company we went with did make us feel safe.  As all the guide books say, don´t skimp when you´re paying for this.  It´s really not that much money and there is not a safer company to do something so dangerous with.

This shows the drop quite well.

This shows the drop quite well.

Tags: cycling, gravity, world´s most dangerous road

Comments

1

wow, sounds very scary, i would have loved it - glad to hear yer still in two pieces!
good stuff

  bomb Oct 29, 2008 9:06 AM

2

I always wanted to do this ride but you're putting me off!

  weestevieb Dec 26, 2008 7:50 PM

3

the guy misses the whole point ! i went on this ride at 60 years old. i'm no great adventure person, and all that is said is correct BUT all i can say is if you DONT go on it
you will miss the biggest adrenalin rush ever to be had, not to mention the scenery (for want of a better word) to die for. (pardon the pun).

i wholly agree with the comment above being "don't pick the cheapest" i didn't but have heard MANY stories since from those that did.

the magnificence of the ride, which goes from 4000+ metres down to approx 2500 metres is indescribable and all words sound over the top. try it and you will see for yourself, but if you go to Bolivia and don't try it, well,.......don't.

ken (Aussie who tried and loved it.)

  ken Jul 30, 2012 8:49 PM

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